Monday, 30 April 2007

We are sober men and true!

So what happens when lifeboat crewmembers drink?

Well, here in Swanage our rules are simple:

If you want to drink do, however, only turn up for a shout if you are legally able to drive a car. On an average weekend some of the crew will go out, some will have too much. We don't plan for this, luckily we have a large enough crew to absorb 'no shows'. Only on rare occasions such as the evening do's over lifeboat week and our annual Christmas party will we nominate a crew who must not drink, some folk are not big drinkers so don't mind volunteering for this, others just take a turn. Only Dave, our erstwhile mechanic must regularly stay sober out of duty.

We sail the ocean blue,
And our saucy ship's a beauty;
We're sober men and true,
And attentive to our duty.
When the balls whistle free
O'er the bright blue sea,
We stand to our guns all day;
When at anchor we ride
On the Portsmouth tide,
We have plenty of time to play.

(Gilbert & Sullivan)

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Walk tall

Last night Paul Elleray (known to most as Shilo) and his wonderful wife Gillian held a BBQ at their house.Many of the crew were there and it was wonderful to once more be enjoying the joys of summer amongst friends.Paul and Dan were on form and having fun.Tom was taking a welcome break from work, he's had his busiest ever start to the charter season in his new boat.Shilo's son Anthony had a new toy, a pair of springy stilts, naturally these were the centre of attention.Sadly they carry a weight limit and so only the miserly massed Liz and Jo could try them out. With a helping hand and much laughing they soon got the hang of them and were strutting their stuff up and down the street.

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That's what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye

(Val Doonican)

Friday, 27 April 2007

Quantum Leap

Looking at yesterdays pictures of the Robert Charles Brown and J. Reginald Corah alongside each other I was struck by the vast differences between the two boats. Going back a generation further this boat (Dave will surely be able to tell me her name) is in most ways very similar to a Rother class; similar hull shape, similar speed and similarly equipped. The leap in technology to the Mersey class was in many ways a quantum leap, the next jump to Fast Carriage Boat 2 (FCB2) is if anything even greater. Once again the speed has doubled, there are water jets, touchscreens, she can be joystick controlled.......the list goes on. Funny really, they all do the same job of saving lives at sea.

Update: I knew I could rely on Dave for the historical facts........

It is the RLP (short for Reginald Lional Pugh). It was a 41ft Watson class and was stationed at Swanage until 1975, when it was replaced with the J Reginald Corah. I can boast that it was the first lifeboat I served on, although thankfully I am not in the photo. Four of those pictured are still alive. Phil and Eric Dorey, Donald Dyke and 87 year old Ron Hardy (who was coxswain when I joined and is on the far left on the boat). RLP was a great sea boat, going through any heavy seas, but you always ended up cold and wet. It had a top speed of 7 knots. You youngsters don't know how lucky you are.

Dave Corben

(and who says old people suffer memory loss?.......well done Mr Corben!)

The reminiscences keep flooding in, Karina - lovely wife of Martin and daughter of ex cox'n Vic Marsh adds these thoughts:

Nice to see the old photo of the RLP, I think my Dad and uncle Reg are on the boat, my grandfather-Sid, is on the slip.
Sad to hear the news about the Corah, the boys (Gav & Matt)used to spend every Thursday helping dad lower the boat out to do the radio test, also a bit wistful as both Matt and then 21 years later Jack (Matt's son) were both christened on board her.Well, that's life.
keep up the good work with the scrapbook.
Karina x

Thursday, 26 April 2007

End of an era?

Each summer during lifeboat week, Roger, the current owner of our last ALB, the J. Reginald Corah has returned her to Swanage and conducted pleasure trips around the bay in her for the RNLI's benefit. He has in many ways become a key part of our weeks celebrations. Sadly, due to Roger's ill health he will probably not bring her this year as she is on the market. We hope she finds a sympathetic and caring new owner and perhaps returns again to Swanage?Here Swanage lifeboats past and present perform for the crowds. Stormy Stan can be seen on the bow!And relax, the end of a hard day?

Not Under Command

Last night was the last of the shore based exercises. It was the final chance for Jo, Becky, Ollie, Nick and Mark to swot up on their IRPCS before their assessment in a weeks time. To be honest it is a tough nut to crack, particularly when you get to lights, shapes and sound signals. Even with Rob's impressive teaching style and some input from me I thought I detected the odd glazed look by the end? Still, the carrot was there..........Stuart, landlord of the Anchor, has agreed to lay on Chips and Sandwiches after evening exercises. What a gent. Sadly this does then require us to sample some of his fine ale (try the broadside)!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Pink 'pub bike'

I promised more details about my glorious pink 'pub bike' and here it is in the flesh. If you only have one bike in your life, this is the one you should have. It looks dreadful, is truly awful to ride, I'm uncertain about how safe it is but.......and it's a big was free, yes, that's right, free, from the dump! The other added bonus is that it is never going to be stolen and therefor never needs locking up when I arrive for a shout. I also like to think that it is so utterly crap that it is cool. Before long I am sure everyone will have one?

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Slip sliding away

I am sorry to have to report that today's slipway trials went less well than we had hoped. South boats had shaved roughly 5 mil off the keel but to no avail. After the trial the Robert Charles Brown sailed away and we remain firmly attached to 'Pinkie'. It seems like we will be continuing to enjoy her company for some time still.

Whoah God only knows, God makes his plan
The informations unavailable to the mortal man
Were workin our jobs, collect our pay
Believe were gliding down the highway, when in fact were slip sliding away

(Simon and Garfunkel)

Testing testing

Being close to Poole we are frequently asked by them to trial and test the latest gadgets or pieces of kit. Often these end up being very good and as a bonus we often keep them so are one of the first to have something in the fleet.

A few years back these headphones were the latest thing on test. They are brilliant, worked fantastically, they allowed you to be within 100 metres or so and still be able to communicate with and hear anyone else wearing a pair, they are waterproof too. Fab. Only problem? Well honestly, look at them. They work but aren't usable. They must be the most bulky bit of communications kit ever produced. Wear them and you will have neck ache for weeks. Still........they look gucci hung up there on their rack.

Monday, 23 April 2007

I have a question for you

So there you are. You've just bought the boat of your dreams. You know little about her apart from she is filthy, things keep falling off and she is held together in lots of places by gaffer tape. Do you a) Spend many hours fixing her up and learning her foibles or b) Climb aboard and set off on passage from Weymouth to Essex?Choose option a) and there is a fair chance that things will work out OK. Choose option b) and there is a fair chance that things will work out like this!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Comings and goings

There was a shore based exercise last night at the boathouse going over some first aid type stuff. I wasn't there but met up with the gang in the Anchor afterwards so as to have a brief meeting with Becky about lifeboat week. Needless to say this didn't happen......or if it did our conclusions are lost. Nevertheless, the gang was on top form and provided excellent entertainment. Jon Deas was being his usual quite and retiring self. However, he did come up with the most excellent nick-name for our two latest recruits, 'Laurel & Hardy'. Poor Nick and Ollie are still trying to work out who is who but I am sure it will stick.Jo was also there last night, always up for an impromptu party and full of fun and mild amounts of madness (think cat on a windy day).Congratulations to Ant Corben who has just this week finished his probationary year and is now a fully fledged crewmember. He has a very large pair of lifeboating wellies to fill but I am certain he will do this with panache and style.....welcome aboard!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Wing Commander Williams

A general business in our lifeboating world has led to much posting about boats and shouts but little talk about people. Here to make amends is 'Wing Commander' Williams.........also known as Steve:

Wing-co is our Senior Helmsman on the ILB and a stickler for doing things right. By trade he is a software engineer (explains his attention to detail) and for fun he rides big motorbikes, sails large catamarans, kayaks, rides mountain bikes and takes part in adventure races. He also makes a habit of fathering boys. Another one of those people whose world spins slightly faster than the rest of us. He has perhaps also got slightly larger 'Cojones' than the rest of us?

Furthermore (and perhaps I ought not to tell you this) he is the only person I have ever know to crash into a police car, then drive away from the scene in a squeal of rubber, and then subsequently persuade the officers involved that it was all their fault and that indeed perhaps they ought to be apologising to him. And, I should mention, got away with it! Sir, we take our hats off to you.........

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Who killed Bambi?

Look carefully in this picture and you can see a small Sika Deer being persuaded to get into our 'Ambulance Pouch' (polite name for a body bag/folding stretcher). Such is the diversity of lifeboat work, this is what our ILB crew found themselves doing on Saturday afternoon.

Now this is not what lifeboats are generally intended to be used for. a crew we like to help in these situations. Being a fairly helpful bunch we feel that if we can help alleviate suffering in animals then we are keen to do so. The added bonus is that it also saves members of the public 'having a go' and getting injured or even dead as so often can happen.

Furthermore, Phyll Clare, the benefactor who donated our boat in memory of her late husband, is also a keen animal lover and we know that she loves it when we help animals out.........naturally we like to keep her happy.

Here Ollie, Becky and Chad are moving into position to round her up.

Spot the Bambi!

Gentle pretty thing
Who only had one spring
You bravely faced the world
Ready for anything
I'm happy that you lived
For your life is mine
What have I except to cry
Spirit never die
Birds of the air
Beasts of the earth
Overjoyed at Bambi's birth they gambolled in the glade

(The Sex Pistols)

Monday, 16 April 2007

Hanging around and wasting time

The Easter break was rounded off for me yesterday with a final tea-time shout. At 5.25 my pager went off requesting the launch of both boats. I just had time before we slipped to call Liz and give her final instructions for cooking our Sunday roast!

As we hit the water we got through to Portland and discovered our task. A selection of climbing kit, rucksacks and ropes had been found at the top of Marmalata Buttress (1/2 a mile west of Anvil Point lighthouse) with no owners nearby. Naturally the Coastguard treated this seriously and asked for us to investigate from sea level. After a good search close inshore nothing was found but with a strong tide running we were concerned that had anyone fallen they would be far away by now. Just as we were about to move further out to sea to search further afield Whiskey Bravo spotted a group of 3 climbers adjacent to Blackers Hole (1/2 a mile further west). The ILB investigated and confirmed that these were indeed the climbers who had left gear at Marmalata.

We returned to station and ourselves, whiskey bravo and the police were stood down. The Coastguard team proceeded to meet the climbers and explain politely but firmly how they could have avoided the drama by simply leaving a note or informing others of their actions.

I arrived home as Liz was carving the Chicken, very god it was too......washed down with a fine glass of Hungarian Chardonnay.

And this life's just a waste of our time
So why don't we get together
We could waste everything tonight
And we could waste and we could waste it all yea
But everybody thinks
That everybody knows
About everybody else
Now now now nobody knows

(Jack Johnson)

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Latest news from Cowes

The latest news from the yard in Cowes is that the Robert Charles Brown's keel is indeed not straight. Dave, our mechanic, can explain this far better than can:

The keel being dead straight & dead flat is far more important on a slipway as the boat goes over a lot of rollers before getting to the sea and the weight of the boat needs to be evenly spread between them. Its not so important with a carriage as the boat pretty much floats off most of the time.

The news from Cowes is that the keel on our boat is 'hogged' (arched up) it would seem that its the back half of the keel causing the problem, its only about 4 or 5 mm but it makes all the difference. There's a lot of head scratching going on at the moment as to how it happened but more importantly how to fix it! Its not possible to just shave some metal off the keel as this would decrease the gap under the bilge keels and may cause them to bind . . a tricky one.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Back where we started

As we speak the Robert Charles Brown is back in Cowes at South Boats where her refit was undertaken. A decision was taken by HQ this morning that she should go back to the yard rather than Poole. A crew from the yard arrived this afternoon and took her away. A sad change from the triumphant return of yesterday!

Still, we have grown used to 'Pinky' (as Mary Margaret has become known to us) and will no doubt now have the chance to add a few further shouts to her tally. No matter how nice it is to have ones own boat, surely the most important thing is to have a boat and to be able to continue to provide the service that we do. Let's not dwell on the 'what ifs' and 'might have beens'...........

Heroes return?

Well we returned with the Robert Charles Brown yesterday evening........unfortunately all is not well as the slipway trials did not go well. Sadly she now has to return to the yard at headquarters to be looked at further. Just when we thought that we had her back, she's gone again. Like so much else in life I suppose.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Return of RCB

Today Dave, Matt and myself are travelling to Cowes to pick up the Robert Charles Brown after her re-fit. Taxi to Wareham, Train to Southampton, Ferry to Cowes and then drive her back. We intend to circumnavigate the island to put some hours on her so we have a 55 mile passage which should take about 3 1/2 hours. And a nice day for it too!

Meanwhile Mary Margaret will remain on station until our return then tonight will stand down and return to the relief fleet. Some time over the next few days she will return to Poole to await her next mission.

Monday, 9 April 2007

5.30 on a sunny evening

The crew are starting to get hungry, three nights in a row we have had a shout at about 5.30!

Yesterday evening I was just on my way home from a spot of fishing and was about to put our Easter leg of lamb in to roast when my pager went off.

Once again it was the old story of early season engine gremlins and floating ropes which were the culprits. A 28 foot motor boat had broken down and was being towed by another passing vessel. Unfortunately the tide was too strong for them to make any headway. Once we arrived on scene off Durlston head we quickly set up the tow and began the tow back to Swanage. Fortunately for the casualty which was out of Poole, Poole lifeboat were just concluding another rescue in the harbour and were able to come towards Old Harry to take over the tow from us and return the casualty to their home marina.

Once again, no lives saved as such but still a very valuable shout; Three of the 4 man crew of the motor boat were beginning to get cold and would have been in more serious difficulty within a few hours. No doubt in my mind that it is better to extract folk from their predicament before it becomes worse.

From a crew training perspective these shouts are very valuable. Yesterday we took a core crew of 6 to sea and then also Nick and Oli who are very recent crew members. For them it was their first shout (well done lads..........I'm looking forward to that beer) and in very controlled and relatively easy conditions. This allows them to put into practise the lessons of recent exercises and build confidence not only in our capability but also theirs.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Easter - A time of new beginnings

Well, I returned home from holiday late last night to a busy Swanage. The tourist season has started and the town is busy. Looking out to sea things are busy there too. Yesterday (Friday) heralded two shouts, look here for details.

Meanwhile tonight, at 5.17, our services were called upon again. This time for a yacht in difficulty South of St Aldhelm's Head. I was in the middle of cooking the kids tea so, after a very quick handover to Liz, I was out of the door. At busy times like this I tend to choose my bike as the preferred method of transport to the station. This is no ordinary bike, it is my glorious pink 'Pub Bike' (I didn't choose the was free from the dump!) More about that another time.

The shout was in many ways typical of a busy weekend shout. A man and wife were making passage from Dartmouth to Poole, in a dying wind their engine overheated and failed them. They tried to solve the problem but couldn't; there was no wind, a strong tide and insufficient anchor chain to anchor. Doing the right thing they contacted Portland Coastguard and asked their advice. Understandably Portland wanted them out of there, a drifting yacht on the busiest day of the year so far. Portland Coastguard asked via VHF radio if anyone could assist, a fellow yachty 'Stood by' but was unable to tow. With darkness approaching Portland decided to seek the assistance of the lifeboat.......and we were only too happy to help.

Swiftly on scene we put two crewmembers onboard, attached a tow and spent a pleasant hour towing them back to our mooring in the bay. They were very grateful and no doubt their problem will be swiftly resolved in the morning. No great feat of maritime rescue, no lives saved but their safety guaranteed without fuss. Job done.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Youth Work

Nick Webb has recently joined the crew. In the real world he is a Youth Worker for some local churches (He didn't stand a chance, his Dad is a Vicar, a Canon no less......whatever one of those is?) Naturally this means that he is very (and I mean VERY) available for shouts. You get the full picture of Nick's availability when you realise that the local coffee shop is essentially his office. And this is great for us. We desperately need people who are around town and able to drop things and respond to their pager at a moments notice. The added bonus is that Nick is fully skilled up at dealing with challenging youths...........perhaps a useful skill when Matt is around?!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Knocking out

Mathew here is one of our most enthusiastic crewmembers. Not surprising really, his elder brother is on the crew, his father is the Coxswain as was his Grandfather before him. Imagine then Mathew's disappointment when he discovered that he would be unable to go to sea on the boat due to having an amount of colour blindness. Gutted. However, Mathew is not one to give up on anything. He joined the crew as winchman, learnt the ropes and then proceeded to pester the RNLI until they allowed him to go to sea. Apparently, according to Mathew, he discovered/invented a new type of colour blindness test which he could pass and persuaded HQ to accept this. In reality I think he just bored them into submission............when Mathew gets it into his mind to do something there is no stopping him!

The pictures here shows him back in his old role as slipway crew about to knock out the pin to send the lifeboat down the slipway and then having just done so in the next one.

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don't you call my name?
You'd better call the sledgehammer
Put your mind at rest
I'm going to be the sledgehammer
This can be my testimony
I'm your sledgehammer
Let there be no doubt about it
Sledge, sledge, sledgehammer

(Peter Gabriel)

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Taking the ground

Mersey class lifeboats are designed to be able to take the ground. Not only in an emergency but also as a part of their launch and recovery onto a carriage or slipway. At the heart of this design is the fact that each propeller and rudder is housed in a tunnel under the boat. These allow the boat to sit on the beach without damaging these appendages.

If you look closely at the photo you can see the freeing trunk above the shaft, this allows us to gain access to the rudder and shaft while at sea. There is also a small hook inboard of the rudder, this is part of the launching system for when the boat is on a carriage. Our own boat, the Robert Charles Brown is without this hook as it was built specifically as a slipway launched boat. The grey looking disk inboard of the propeller is an anode, this prevents electrolytic action from eating away at metal fittings such as shaft and propeller.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Elephant's Trunk

To enable us to launch the ALB from inside the boathouse we need some way of getting the exhaust fumes from within to without. To this end we have this elephant's trunk arrangement. It is supposed to seal onto the exhausts (there are two) and direct the fumes outside the boathouse.........they don't, even with them connected the boathouse is soon filled with noxious fumes leaving the crew struggling to breath and feeling distinctly nauseous.

As they say, if you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined.......